In this day and age, there is a wide variety of classic British TV content available on streaming services. From classic episodes of Doctor Who on Britbox and iPlayer to a number of 70s, 80s and 90s drama serials on ITVX. Unfortunately, there are some titles which are likely never to be seen again. No more is this true than with the content which was made by ITV regional company Television South (TVS) between 1982 and 1992.
TVS were an ambitious company that produced a large amount of programming for the ITV network during their active years. A few shows include:
- C.A.T.S Eyes: (1985-1987) A spin-off series to LWT’s The Gentle Touch, starring Gill Gascoigne.
- No. 73: (1982-1988) Saturday Morning Children’s Show featuring Sandi Toksvig.
- British versions of American game shows including All Clued Up, Tell the Truth, Catchphrase, The Pyramid Game, Jeopardy and Concentration.
- Perfect Scoundrels: (1990-1992) Comedy Drama starring Peter Bowles and Bryan Murray.
- Motormouth: (1988-1992) Saturday Morning Children’s Show.
- The UK segments for Henson’s Fraggle Rock.
And many more!
When TVS Lost Their Franchise
After losing their franchise, International Family Entertainment acquired TVS in 1993. They launched a UK version of the Family Channel from TVS’ Maidstone Studios, utilizing both their back catalogue and that of MTM Enterprises, a company TVS had acquired in 1988. Flextech later acquired the channel entirely. In 1996, Fox acquired International Family Entertainment to form Fox Family. In 2001, The Walt Disney Company purchased Fox Family, which included the TVS archive.
In the years since this deal, TVS material has rarely been seen on television. At some point, important paperwork related to the archive was lost. This means that any Disney-owned TVS programming can not be rerun, as the necessary details on payments and rights are unavailable. Sadly as a result, it was confirmed by Kaleidoscope that a number of programmes are now listed as missing due to tape junking, and unknown whereabouts of material. VHS copies, taped from decades-old broadcasts turn up on YouTube from time to time, but the best quality masters are unlikely to see the light of day.
The exception to the above lies in a few examples. Programmes, including How 2 and Art Attack, were taken over by Scottish Television shortly before any buyout. This means all episodes of these shows still exist and are able to be used; How 2 has been a prescience on Amazon Prime Video UK since 2019. The same can be said for some co-productions that TVS had a hand in, including the 90s version of Rupert. The Storyteller, a co-production with Jim Henson Productions, is also available to stream.
Are there any other former ITV Regions in the same position?
A number of years following the franchise shake-up of 1992, rules changed to the point that companies could start merging together. The result of these mergers is now what makes up ITV PLC. TVS is one of a handful of legacy companies whose archives are not part of it. A couple of examples are as follows:
The archive of Southern Television, which was the predecessor in TVS’ region, now lies in a number of places. Most notably, a large chunk of the library is now owned by Renown Pictures, who often rerun Southern TV programmes on their channel Talking Pictures TV. There is also a fair amount on their TPTV Encore platform.
London-based Thames Television lost its license in 1992. Their archive is primarily owned by two companies. Boat Rocker Media owns the kids and family content, while Fremantle handles the rest. Shows from this vast catalogue of material turn up on That’s TV, Talking Pictures TV, ITV3 and ITVX.
It is a shame that much of the TVS archive may never be seen again officially. They represent a certain time in popular culture and are part of the story of ITV. In their own way, they helped to shape modern ITV with the introduction of many shows and techniques that are still staples to this day. An ideal world would see the cream of the TVS archive have a prescience on Disney+, but sadly this looks unlikely. Fans of media preservation can only hope that one day, somehow, the remains will be screened officially once again.